At a leadership seminar a CEO said, “Performance evaluations give you at least one chance to have a conversation with your employees.”
I don’t disagree with that, especially for off shifts. But performance evaluations are also a chance to permanently document performance issues, impressions, and comments. They may be used as an instrument of punishment or at least proof of wrongdoing. There’s always two sides to a coin.
This can leave any of us dreading an evaluation, especially since we all have a natural cognitive bias to remember the most recent negative event.
I have certainly had terrible evaluations. I have been graded poorly on tests I rarely perform, asked to write my own evaluation, and graded by someone who has no idea what I do. I’ve been graded based on secret conversations with peers, criteria sprung on me during the evaluation, or so sporadically that I wonder why I’m being evaluated at all. Much of this is poorly presented, filled out ahead of time and handed to me like a subpoena. At one evaluation I was ordered to read it in full while my boss sat and watched. All this always happens behind closed doors, sprung on me as a surprise or scheduled in advance.
Seldom have I ever been evaluated on actual performance on the job: (as a tech) running a specific analyzer, troubleshooting problems, calling critical values according to policy, doing all tasks expected of me; (as a manager) completing a budget on time, holding meetings, being an effective leader, resolving personnel issues. This seems like a simple kind of evaluation to design and perform that would be beneficial for both parties, but instead it’s usually “attitude” stuff related to how organized I am, how well I communicate, how I get along with others and share my toys, and how “committed” I am to goals.
My evaluations are rarely a simple, honest chat -- with the door open! -- about exactly what I do, why I do it, and how I do it. That’s pathetic, but I suspect it’s the norm. No wonder people dread evaluations.
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